The North Carolina 2020 Governor’s Export Awards has named Budsin Electric Boats as the co-winner in the state’s ‘Top Rural Export’ category. In presenting the awards, Governor Roy Cooper saluted the winners for “raising the profile of North Carolina-made products around the world, promoting excellence in goods and services and for displaying their grit during these tough economic times.”
Tom Hesselink, owner of Budsin, has been building wooden boats since he apprenticed with legendary wooden boat builder Ferd ‘Red’ Nimphius in Neshkoro, Wisconsin in 1982. If you would like to get some idea of what that was like, take in the charming video below, done in 1984 for Charles Kuralt’s famous US television show ’On The Road’.
Tom later moved to Beaufort, North Carolina and became foreman at Jarrett Bay Boatworks, a premier builder of custom sportfishing boats. He was looking for something more personally satisfying, though, as he told Sonia Thompson of the Splinter Creek Journal. “When we were building sport fishing boats, it was all about how to make it bigger, how to make it faster and how do you make it more expensive than the other guy’s for bragging rights.”
He built his first electric boat in 1987 and never looked back, founding Budsin Electric Boats three years later in Marshallberg – a town of 403 people on the Atlantic coast, about 50 miles from the famed Cape Hatteras lighthouse and ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ museum of historic shipwrecks.
Budsin Electric Boats – beautifully simple, well-made
The small shop is staffed with craftsmen as passionate about quality boatbuilding as Tom is, all working with the common goal of “creating beautifully simple, well-made vessels which provide our customers with the perfect way to unwind on the water.”
The yard offers three main designs – the 15′ Lightning Bug, 19′ Trouvé and 22′ Phantom – but also builds a small 1 person electric ‘pirogue’ riverboat and does custom work like the 27 foot cabin boat shown above. Tom was inspired by the hull design of torpedo stern launches popular in the US in the early 1900’s and married it with a cabin design heavily influenced by the Thames River launches from the same era.
The boats are typically made of Atlantic cedar and mahogany and the workmanship and detail is exquisite, as attested by the comments on the website from delighted owners:
- This craft is everything we expected and more. The design is flawless and the craftsmanship unbelievably fine in all respects. This is a work of art.
- The vessel is in and of itself the destination: a place to relax, enjoy solitude or the company of friends and take in the view, both within and beyond the boat.
- My hassle free yacht brings me total enjoyment and peace…I get compliments constantly as I cruise by other lake homeowners…..”What a Beautiful Boat…..and Quiet too!!!”
- While I am amid a growing community of electrically driven boats here in Lake Wörthersee, Austria, my 15´ Lightning Bug is THE eye catcher.
Budsin appearing in Venice e-Regatta in May
As you would expect of a company receiving an award for Top Exporter, Budsin electric boats can be found not only in 31 US states, but also in Europe, Canada, Mexico…and Tom has plans for further international exposure and sales as the popularity of electric boats increases. A Budsin Trouvé will be appearing in the e-Regatta of the Venice Boat Show in late May and Tom also has plans to exhibit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
No doubt he will also be acting as an ambassador for United States e-boats in general in his role as Executive Director of the Electric Boat Association of America.
In speaking about the award, which is presented in collaboration with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Tom said “The EDPNC has been particularly helpful for us establishing a foothold in the European market and we look to soon expand our efforts. I’m grateful for that assistance which allows us to live and work in quiet, eastern North Carolina, but still maintain a global reach.”
Wherever the customers are, the appeal of the handcrafted Budsin boats is the same. “People buy our boats because of how they look, but they use them because of what they are…quiet, precise, passionate.”
And Hesselink is just as enthusiastic about the work he does now as he was during his apprenticeship in Wisconsin. “As soon as you hop in one of the boats and push the lever forward, you just cruise off silently. It’s too nice, too easy. Just peacefulness and tranquility. I can’t think of a more rewarding product to build.”